Jon Ausman: Charter Review Committee Should Recommend City Districts

Jon Ausman: Charter Review Committee Should Recommend City Districts

There are twenty-two municipalities in the United States that have populations within ten thousand (10,000) people of the population of the City of Tallahassee.

The average size of the city commissions of these municipalities, including Tallahassee, is 8.2 members.  The largest commission is Overland Park (Kansas) which has thirteen commissioners. Four other cities, including two city-county consolidated commissions, have ten or more commissioners: Worcester (Massachusetts), Little Rock (Arkansas), Columbus (Georgia), and Augustus (Georgia).

Only two of the twenty-three cities have just five persons serving on the commission: Tallahassee (Florida) and Amarillo (Texas).

In 1980, shortly after I arrived moved to Leon County, the City’s population was 81,548.  In 2022 the population was 201,731.  That is a sizable jump in population.  The number of commissioners, five, has remained the same.

I had the pleasure of serving on the Leon County Charter Commission when the Leon County Commission moved from five at-large commissioners to seven commissioners (five from single member districts and two from at-large districts).  I also served as an advisor to Dr. Douglas St. Angelo when the Leon County School Board moved from five at-large board members to five single-member districts.  Both the County Commission and School Board have served with distinction over the thirty plus years since these changes.

It is notable that most of the municipalities comparable in size to Tallahassee, nineteen out of twenty-two, have moved away from the pure at-large system used here in Tallahassee.

Over seventy percent (70%) of the 184 persons elected to serve among these comparable cities are selected from among three district systems.  The vast majority come from single member districts, two come from super single member districts (in Augusta, George, there are six wards that elect one commissioner each and then a commissioner is elected from two groups of three of the wards combined), and multi-members districts used in Overland Park (Kansas) and Grand Rapids (Michigan).  

I do recall after the 1980 Census the Florida Legislature moved away from multi-member districts to single member districts.  Around thirty percent of the commissioners are elected at-large though this number is inflated as it includes mayors elected citywide who serve on the commissions.

Members of the Charter Review Committee should recommend both expanding the number of commissioners and revising the election structure from a pure at-large system to either single members districts or a combination of district elections with at-large seats.  Members may also want to consider the timing of election dates.

Jon M. Ausman is the longest serving Chair of the Leon County Democratic Party in Leon County’s history (April 1980 to January 2000).  He can be reached at or at 850-321-7799.

7 Responses to "Jon Ausman: Charter Review Committee Should Recommend City Districts"

  1. Ah, yess, the illiberal leftist who tried to beat up the Republicans & Libertarians delivering yard signs… but I digress.

    With a city population of about 200K, there should be 15-25 districts, so the population in each district could actually know the representative, see & recognize her walking the dog, at the grocery, picking up the kinder from the brain-w, er, schools after band practice or football or baseball. In ye olden days, my grand-father’s farm had belonged to the state representative’s aunts, and his law office was just a piece up the road and to the right, in the village founded by his great-grand-father. He had fought on Guam and Guadalcanal. Fast-forward: his grave is not far from those of my parents, aunts, uncles, and today’s representatives and senators in the state legislator still refer to him with respect.

    This current bunch we have waxing power-mad over Tallahassee and Leon county, over the universities & colleges & K-12 not quite so much.

  2. He’s hoping to isolate the the conservative NE and make their vote irrelevant. Nothing this man has ever done was for the benefit of the entire voter base, just the liberal base. He wants to keep on creating division in the city, just like he’s always done.

  3. If John Ausman’s lips are moving he’s lying. I don’t care if he’s just reading the weather report, he’s lying. He may be right on this, but he’s lied to everyone for so long about what is really going on he can’t be believed to give you the time of day.
    If Ausman if for something, you should be against it, his motives are not good and are not in the public’s interest. John Ausman is one of the people that created all of the problems this city has, he ain’t about to fix a dang thing.

  4. This refried Democrat still fancies himself as a voice in the community. His writings reflect his past blind obedience to the DNC and its sub parts, always with a hidden agenda. Beware of the facts and interpretations presented.

  5. This article is hard to follow…….. is Mr. Ausman wanting the City to add more Commissioners and make them Single District like the County? Is he wanting the City and County to become one and have 10 District Commissioners and 3 At Large Commissioners? We only have 196,637 Registered Voters in all of Leon County.

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